Could Fresno host the Oakland A’s as the team looks for an interim home?
The chances are as likely as a Jose Canseco defensive gem, but Mayor Jerry Dyer is willing to take a swing.
“I think Fresno is always a possibility,” Dyer said. “I’m confident that they’re doing their due diligence. They’re looking at heat, they’re looking at … stadium capacity, proximity to Oakland. And, certainly, we want to make ourselves available here,” Dyer told GV Wire on Tuesday.
The A’s appear headed to Las Vegas. On the way, the Major League Baseball team will need a place to play for three years from 2025-2027.
Although just in the speculation stage, minor league parks in Nevada, as well as the San Francisco Giants stadium and even remaining in Oakland, are possibilities.
The Nevada state legislature agreed to help finance a new stadium on the Las Vegas Strip, ready by 2028. The A’s lease at the Oakland Coliseum expires after the 2024 season.
The A’s still need formal approval from the other 29 owners to move.
A Return to Triple-A the Real Goal
The more realistic option is for Triple-A baseball — the highest level of the minor leagues — to return to Fresno. The players have more experience, and many of them have already played for an MLB team.
“I do believe (the A’s moving to Fresno) would serve to maybe accelerate more people coming downtown. I’d love to see that happen. But if it doesn’t, we want our Triple-A team back,” Dyer said.
When MLB reorganized the minor leagues after the COVID-cancelled 2020 season, it gave Fresno two options — accept a demotion to Single-A or lose the minor league affiliation altogether.
With more than 15 years to go on the lease at Chukchansi Park, the decision was as easy as a Rickey Henderson steal of second base.
Since then, the city and its current tenant, the Fresno Grizzlies, have made significant improvements to the stadium. A new video board, sound system, and lights were installed in 2022, at a cost of $2 million.
This season, the team installed a new grass playing surface at a cost of $2 million. Next year, improvements are planned for the home and visitor clubhouses, female locker rooms, and a second underground batting cage. All are considered necessary to meet MLB standards.
Renegotiated in 2020, the Grizzlies pay a yearly rent of $100,000 to lease Chukchansi Park. The A’s are set to pay $1.25 million in rent for the Oakland Coliseum in 2024.
Consultant Aids City’s Bid for Triple-A Agreement
“We would like to see as a result of those investments in the stadium, a return on that investment, and that is to get a Triple-A team,” Dyer said.
Dyer said the city is using a consultant to help make Fresno a Triple-A city again. The mayor said he’s made inquiries with the A’s to host their top minor league team — currently in Las Vegas — if and when the A’s move.
“I wanted to make sure that (the A’s) were much aware of the fact that we’re not satisfied with a Single-A, but we would much rather have a Triple-A team like we used to. Because we know that oftentimes that is what fills the stadium,” Dyer said.
Dyer has not heard back from the A’s.
When MLB yanked Fresno’s Triple-A status after 2020, there was a hope that one day it would return.
“Major League Baseball did state that we would be in a strong position to host a Triple-A team. No guarantees, but we believe there was at least a commitment to look at Fresno first,” Dyer said.
A return to Triple-A would help with rebuilding downtown Fresno, Dyer said.
“It really completes that circle,” Dyer said.”
Where Do the A’s Play?
The San Francisco Chronicle speculated about several locations — minor league stadiums in Las Vegas or Reno, sharing a stadium with the San Francisco Giants, or even remaining in Oakland.
Each option has problems. The Giants would be very unlikely to show any magnanimity to their fellow team across the Bay.
The Coliseum hasn’t been MLB quality in years — a main factor in the team entering Las Vegas. The poorly run team has driven away fans. The A’s average 10,000 fans a game — last among the 30 MLB teams.
Las Vegas, Reno, and Fresno have Triple-A stadiums — although technically Fresno is in the Single-A California League.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” MLB Players Association union chief Tony Clark told the San Francisco Chronicle about playing in 100-degree heat at Las Vegas Ballpark.
“Whether it’s the heat, the facilities, the playing surface, health and safety issues, the accommodations around the ballpark in support of the families. Whether it’s the travel and the schedule associated with that, teams coming into town. Those are all conversations we will have to have in conjunction with any decision to relocate,” Clark told the paper.
His office said Clark had “nothing to add” regarding the A’s playing in Fresno.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred would not commit to an interim location, speaking with the Chronicle.
“Obviously, there are a lot of considerations with respect to all those possibilities that I’m just not conversant enough to have a judgment at this point,” Manfred said. “It’s really up to the club to say, ‘Here’s what we want to do, and here’s why we want to do it.’ ”
Reno’s elevation is 4,505 feet, which would affect fly balls and make home runs easier, just like Coors Field in Denver.
The MLB union would have to approve any interim ballpark site, the Chronicle reported.
Chukchansi Park has an official capacity of 10,650 fans.
The Grizzlies have averaged 4,418 fans this season through 42 dates. They led the Cal League in attendance last year at 4,025 fans per game. On some nights, the Grizzlies outdraw the A’s.
Fresno’s Minor League History
Fresno has had a long history of minor league baseball, mostly associated with the San Francisco Giants.
When the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, they affiliated with Fresno’s minor league team in the California League.
MLB teams and minor league teams are independent of each other, linked by a contract to provide a farm team for the big league club.
The Giants discontinued the Fresno affiliation after the 1987 season, in favor of San Jose — a partnership which continues today. The Fresno Suns Cal League team lasted one more season, folding after 1988.
Minor League Baseball returned for the 1998 season, this time in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. With the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks now in MLB, the Phoenix Triple-A franchise became available.
Once again, Fresno and the Giants were linked, a partnership lasting through 2014. Several Giants greats of the era — Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner — came through Chukchansi Park.
The Giants left Fresno again, opting to move its affiliation to Sacramento. Attendance suffered, even with success on the field. The next season, the Grizzlies — now an affiliate of the Houston Astros — won the Triple-A championship. Between affiliations with the Giants (through 2014), Houston (2015-2018), and Washington (2019), the Grizzlies were the Triple-A team for the World Series winner five of 10 years.